What Causes Mongolian Spots on Baby?

Reviewed on 3/10/2021

What are Mongolian spots?

Mongolian spots on babies are slate gray nevi spots that appear when melanocytes or cells that produce melanin remain in the deeper skin layers during womb development. Why this happens is not known.
Mongolian spots on babies are slate gray nevi spots that appear when melanocytes or cells that produce melanin remain in the deeper skin layers during womb development. Why this happens is not known.

Skin color in babies often changes depending on the environment and health. Other factors that influence a baby's skin color include the baby's age, race or ethnic group, temperature, and whether or not the baby is crying. While some of these differences are just temporary, others can be permanent like certain birthmarks.

There are two main types of birthmarks. First are vascular birthmarks that are caused by abnormal blood vessels in or under the skin. They are often red, pink, purple, or blue in color. Second are pigmented birthmarks that are caused by groups of pigment cells and are usually brown or tan colored. Although vascular birthmarks usually appear in the face, head, and neck area, both types of birthmarks can occur anywhere, including inside the body.

Birthmarks are made up of abnormal color cells or blood vessels. They present as areas of discolored and/or raised skin. A baby who is born with a birthmark is completely normal and healthy. The only time it is considered an issue that needs medical attention is if the birthmark prevents your baby from living comfortably.

Mongolian spots or slate gray nevi are a kind of birthmarks that are flat, blue, or blue-gray. They appear at birth or in the first few weeks of life. Most birthmarks go away with time, although some will persist until puberty. In such a case, it is likely that the person will remain with the mark for life.

Apart from Mongolian spots, there are other types of colored birthmarks. Café-au-lait spots are coffee-colored skin patches. They are common among many children, but if your child is already five years old and has more than six of these patches, consult your doctor as it could be a sign of neurofibromatosis, a condition that causes tumors to grow in the nerves.

Symptoms of Mongolian spots on babies

Mongolian spots are usually:

  • Blue or blue-gray spots on the back, buttocks, base of spine, shoulders, or other body areas
  • Flat with irregular shape and unclear edges
  • Normal in skin texture
  • Two to eight centimeters wide, or larger

Mongolian blue spots are sometimes mistaken for bruises. The birthmarks are not associated with any other medical symptoms or illnesses and do not cause any pain. Their color is most intense at the age of one year and gradually fades afterward. It is barely noticeable after the age of six years.

Causes of Mongolian spots on babies

Slate gray nevi spots appear when melanocytes or cells that produce melanin remain in the deeper skin layers during the development of a child in the womb. It is not yet known why this happens. These spots can appear on anyone, but they are more common among Asian, Native American, Hispanic, East Indian, and African children.

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When to see the doctor for Mongolian spots

Normally, Mongolian spots will not need to be taken to the doctor. They are not painful, do not make your child uncomfortable, and are not even noticeable to the one having them unless they are told. Doctors think these spots are harmless. However, some birthmarks are accompanied by other conditions.

Mongolian spots are present at birth or soon after so your doctor will notice them early. If you ask your doctor about the spots, they may mention congenital dermal melanocytosis in reference to the condition. If you are concerned that the mark on your child is not a Mongolian spot, consult the doctor. Other things to look out for are an enlarging or growing mark, one that is close to the mouth, or if it starts to change shape or color.

Diagnosis of Mongolian spots on babies

Mongolian spots may resemble bruises but they are not. They are birthmarks. Your doctor will ask about your family history, seeking to establish whether other family members had Mongolian spots at birth. In some cases, doctors have found up to 13 people in a single-family born with the birthmarks.

Treatment for Mongolian spots

Birthmarks do not require any treatment as most fade away with age. Since Mongolian spots usually appear in places where clothes will easily cover-up, they are not an issue needing much attention. It is advisable to talk openly and in a simple manner about a birthmark with your child. It will make them feel comfortable and more likely to accept the mark as a part of themselves. Doctors recommend early documentation of Mongolian spots in a baby. This reduces the chances of suspecting abuse on a child when seeking medical attention for these marks later in life.

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References
Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology: "Mongolian spots."

Iranian Journal of Pediatrics: "Extensive Mongolian Spots with Autosomal Dominant Inheritance."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Birthmarks in Infants."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Neurofibromatosis."

KidsHealth: "Birthmarks."

MedlinePlus: "Mongolian blue spots."

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby: "Birthmarks."

Mount Sinai: "Mongolian blue spots."

The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne: "Congenital dermal melanocytosis."

Tokyo Medical University: "Mongolian Spot."

World Journal of Clinical Cases: "Mongolian spots: How important are they?"

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